Please explain in detail the third stanza of "To Althea, from Prison" by Richard Lovelace?To Althea, from PrisonBy Richard LovelaceWhen Love with unconfinèd wings      Hovers within my...

Please explain in detail the third stanza of "To Althea, from Prison" by Richard Lovelace?

To Althea, from Prison
By Richard Lovelace

When Love with unconfinèd wings   
   Hovers within my Gates,
And my divine Althea brings
   To whisper at the Grates;
When I lie tangled in her hair,
   And fettered to her eye,
The Gods that wanton in the Air,
   Know no such Liberty.

When flowing Cups run swiftly round    
   With no allaying Thames,
Our careless heads with Roses bound,
   Our hearts with Loyal Flames;
When thirsty grief in Wine we steep,
   When Healths and draughts go free,
Fishes that tipple in the Deep
   Know no such Liberty.

When (like committed linnets) I     
   With shriller throat shall sing
The sweetness, Mercy, Majesty,
   And glories of my King;
When I shall voice aloud how good
   He is, how Great should be,
Enlargèd Winds, that curl the Flood,
   Know no such Liberty.

Stone Walls do not a Prison make,      
   Nor Iron bars a Cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
   That for an Hermitage.
If I have freedom in my Love,
   And in my soul am free,
Angels alone that soar above,
   Enjoy such Liberty.

Asked on by rozh

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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When (like committed linnets) I     
   With shriller throat shall sing
The sweetness, Mercy, Majesty,
   And glories of my King;
When I shall voice aloud how good
   He is, how Great should be,
Enlargèd Winds, that curl the Flood,
   Know no such Liberty.

The first four lines of stanza 3 speak of occasions when Lovelace expresses his devotion to Charles I, his beloved King. Lovelace was imprisoned in 1642 at the outbreak of the religiously motivated Civil War against King Charles I. Lovelace had spoken out on Charles's behalf in Parliament thus winning the enmity of the Puritan "Roundhead" rebels. It was from prison that Lovelace wrote this lyric poem letter to his beloved.

In these opening lines, Lovelace compares his expressions of devotion to King Charles I (who was later beheaded by order of Cromwell), through the poetic device of a simile, to the songs of linnets. Linnets are finches of the Old World, as European birds are classified, and are small brown song birds. In other words, Lovelace says his praise of Charles is the song of the forest birds (I've traded Lovelace's simile for a metaphor!).

When (like committed linnets) I     
   With shriller throat shall sing
The sweetness, Mercy, Majesty,
   And glories of my King;

Lines 5 and 6 reiterate his mention of occasions when he shall speak "aloud" of Charles's goodness and greatness.

When I shall voice aloud how good
   He is, how Great should be,

In the final two lines of this iambic octave stanza, with alternating tetrameter and trimeter, Lovelace provides the analogy that expresses how much liberty is generated in his experience by these praises. He says that unfettered (i.e., unbound) enraged storm winds that sweep across the ocean and rampage over the waves know not the liberty that he experiences. In other words, when praising King Charles like song birds in a forest singing of how good and great the King is, Lovelace has more freedom and liberty than the liberated raging ocean wind.     

When I shall voice aloud how good
   He is, how Great should be,
Enlargèd Winds, that curl the Flood,
   Know no such Liberty.

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